On the 24th of February 2022, Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, an invasion that threatens to become the most devastating conflict in Europe since World War II. Calling it a “special military operation”, what shortly followed were attacks from multiple fronts targeted towards multiple cities into the country of about 40 million, which has already caused an astounding humanitarian crisis, and is likely to test regional security alliances and agreements in ways not seen before in decades. 

The implications of such a multi prolonged invasion in Ukraine, which is an aspiring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) member nation, are colossal; the attack could also reverberate beyond Eastern Europe and threaten the balance of power globally. But exactly how the conflict will affect the prevailing “international liberal order” depends precisely on how the U.S. and its allies respond, Northeastern experts say. Although the subject of some debate, this term is used by academics, pundits, and political leaders to broadly characterize the set of rules, norms, and institutions around which the post-Cold War world is organized, which broadly favors multilateralism, liberal democratic ideals, and anti-authoritarianism. 

In the economic sphere, the unprecedented sanctions imposed by the U.S. and western allies in response have rattled the global economy and financial markets. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) reports that Russia’s invasion could fundamentally reshape global economic order in the longer run. Beyond the human suffering and historic refugee flows, the war is boosting prices for food and energy, fuelling inflation and eroding the value of incomes, while disrupting trade, supply chains, and remittances in countries neighbouring Ukraine. It is also eroding business confidence and triggering uncertainty among investors that will depress asset prices, tighten financial conditions and potentially trigger capital outflows from emerging markets. Moreover, countries with direct trade, tourism, and financial exposures would feel mounting pressure, the IMF said, citing a greater risk of unrest in some regions from Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America to the Caucasus and Central Asia. At the same time, food insecurity is likely to further increase in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where countries like Egypt import 80% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Food prices in Egypt were already climbing before Russia invaded Ukraine and now bread, a politically symbolic staple on which many Egyptians heavily depend, is also becoming more expensive as exports in the Black Sea are halted and global prices rise. Additionally, food and energy prices are the main channels for spillovers in the Western Hemisphere, with high commodity prices likely to significantly quicken already high inflation rates in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. 

In addition to the immediate and grave humanitarian crisis now being created as hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from their homes, this conflict is precipitating significant long-term setbacks in human development. Critical work to advance youth education, increase economic opportunity and curb the spread of diseases like HIV and COVID-19 has stalled, leaving gaps that will not be easily repaired. Furthermore, human trafficking of Ukrainian women, as well as sexual exploitation and abuse has emerged to be a dangerous by-product of the country’s conflict-fueled refugee crisis, according to the international aid organization World Vision and The International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be a ‘global economic game changer’, as illustrated by The Washington Post, the impact of which could be felt everywhere for years. The international response to this invasion has largely been limited to sanctions and condemnation, which have failed in deterring Putin’s “war of choice” with Ukraine. Now the world enters a perilous, unpredictable new phase. “This is a European great power attacking the capital of another sovereign European country,” said Timothy Naftali, a historian at New York University and author of Khrushchev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary. “This is an event more reminiscent of World War II than of the Cold War.”

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